No doubt you’ve heard of “imposter syndrome” – the idea that we achieved something through luck or by accident – not by hard work, expertise or skill – and that it could disappear at any moment.
According to Wikipedia: “The feeling of being a fraud that surfaces in impostor phenomenon is not uncommon. It has been estimated that nearly 70% of individuals will experience signs and symptoms of impostor phenomenon at least once in their life. This can be a result of a new academic or professional setting. Research shows that impostor phenomenon is not uncommon for students who enter a new academic environment. Feelings of insecurity can come as a result of an unknown, new environment. This can lead to lower self-confidence and belief in their own abilities.“
You know what? Kids can have it too. You may have noticed a hint of this if your child says something like, “I’m not good enough to be in the school play so I won’t bother trying out” or “I can’t accept that spot on the team. I’m not fast enough; they’ll probably cut me” or “Maybe they should ask someone else to be the student council treasurer – it must have been a mistake.”
Now, this could be due to anxiety of course and we all get anxious or have doubts about achievements, promotions, try-outs, etc. It could also be due to low self-esteem which can be something that plagues kids and adults pervasively.
To help counter-act imposter syndrome, experts talk about building self-esteem, resilience and understand the concept of “fake it ’til you make it.”
Other ways to help your child combat imposter syndrome is to provide examples in your own life – when you’ve felt like an imposter or a fraud in a new situation – say a great new job, the go-to yoga teacher, school mom, president of a non-profit board, presenter in an awards show, mentor for others, speaker at a conference – and how you overcame (or masked) those feelings to take on scary new situations and thrive.
If 70% of people experience imposter syndrome, it’s pretty likely that our kids will experience it too. We should be ready to show them that many people feel like frauds when presented with exciting opportunities and that’s okay – we can:
- act confidently
- be self-aware
- give ourselves a pep talk
- discuss the feelings with trusted adults or mentors
- and… hopefully tackle the situation and come out more confident on the other side!
Do you or your child suffer from imposter syndrome? If so, what did you do to combat it?